Decay Inevitable, Conrad Williams

Review by Paul Campbell

decayinevitableI decided to read this novel cold, foregoing the publisher’s blurb on the back cover. The story follows two small groups of characters whose threads don’t merge until half of the book’s 400 pages have lapsed. Neither does the novel’s intent. Sure, there’s plenty of sound and fury, but that lack of knowing what any of it is all about gives the novel a very disjointed feel.

It’s visceral, make no mistake, and evokes vintage Clive Barker, but Williams lacks Barker’s lyricism, his ability to make his evocation of the dream world more potent than those scenes set in the real world. On the other hand, Williams is superb at conveying the here and now, the grit and grind of urban life. By comparison, his other world appears rendered in broad strokes. Good stuff – if it had been published in the early nineties, although even then it lacks the scope and ambition of The Secret of Anatomy (1994) by Mark Morris. Structure wise, it is too similar to Williams’s own The Unblemished (2006) whilst lacking that novel’s superior characterisation. And it’s not a patch on the tightly focused precision of Williams’s other novel from last year, One.

All in all, a cracking weekend read whose Barker-esque moments will spell readers over until Clive gets around to releasing The Scarlet Gospels and the third Abarat book.

Decay Inevitable, Conrad Williams, Solaris. 2009. £7.99 pb.